A few Questions & Answers … helping our readers better get to know missionaries Albert & Barb Heal.
You recently completed a winter outreach trip. Please tell about that.
A&B: After 13 years of annual trips to Dene Yatíe communities (formerly known as Slavey), we’re now doing it twice a year – in the summer by air, and in the winter by road (which includes winter roads). We usually visit six places, Fort Nelson, BC and five NWT villages. Our focus is to encourage the believers, teach the Word in homes and other meetings, and hand out Tribal Trails videos and literature.
We find people hungry for Bible teaching. On this last trip, one morning we were in a home with several family members present. Around 11 am, one lady said, “Let’s have Bible study now. I need to work this afternoon!” A Bible study in this home was nothing new, but it encouraged us to hear her take the initiative and express a desire to study the Word.
So these are places and people you’ve known from previous years?
B: Yes, we were stationed in Fort Nelson from 1984-2005. Albert served as pilot/mechanic. Along with flying missionaries in and out of isolated communities, he did many evangelism trips on his own while I was home with our four children. Each month he visited three of these places, building friendships and sharing the Gospel.
On the nearby Fort Nelson Reserve we held Bible studies, kids’ clubs and Sunday services.
A: In one NWT community I was also invited to teach Bible lessons in the local school. During those years we also supervised summer missionaries. Some of these villages had full-time missionaries in past years, but that is no longer the case, so there is a need for teaching. There are small numbers of believers in each place. They welcome us back with open arms each time we come.
Now, after serving for several years in NCEM administration, please tell us about your present ministries.
B: I enjoy working full-time in the Headquarters Office. I am one of the staff who open mail and receipt donations daily. I answer phones, reply to e-mails, and clarify matters with supporters. There is also “paper work” for our field missionaries – things like clergy registrations, etc. I really enjoy interacting with the other staff here.
A: After 11½ years in administration, I am now NCEM’s primary pilot. Most of our flights are 10-16 day outreach ministry trips with teams of 2-4 people. Each year we also fly Native Evangelical Fellowship (NEFC) leaders as they visit their churches in isolated communities in Manitoba, northern Ontario and Quebec. And last year I also flew for a First Nations church hosting a missions conference. That involved flying in speakers and bringing in attendees from surrounding communities.
A highlight of flying with NCEM is getting to see what God is doing in many different places. I also see the needs, especially the need to have more missionaries living in these places, working to see local churches established and growing.
Let’s take a short break here … what are some of your favorite ways to relax?
B: I enjoy quilting, card making, reading, cross stitching, watching mystery shows and movies, riding my bike, and walking.
A: I love golfing, gardening and fishing. I enjoy watching our local WHL hockey team play. In the winter months I like reading and doing jigsaw puzzles.
What are some of the greatest challenges in your missionary experience?
B: Some of the challenge I felt while we were in Fort Nelson was understanding the different thought patterns and values of people in a culture different than my own. It was also an adjustment when I moved to serve at the Office – to go from working at home on my own schedule to having to follow an office schedule and learning to work in an office environment.
A: The challenge of not being omni-present! We can’t be in two places at once. We enjoy working in the Office and are needed here, along with my aviation duties. On the other hand, our Dene Yatíe friends want us to move back and minister there. Also, we are not getting younger and realize there is only so much we can realistically do. We see the need for more workers in all areas of the Mission.
What are some of the greatest joys in your missionary experience?
A: It is a great joy to see people hungry to study the Word of God. After 35-plus years of missionary service it is rewarding to have people seek us out when they have questions, or are going through trials. I still enjoy flying our aircraft and especially seeing all of our NCEM and First Nations friends in many places across Canada.
B: It is a joy to see people hungry for the Word of God. It is also great to hear someone say it is because of the teaching of the Word that they are following the Lord. It is a joy to have people say that we are like family to them. It is a joy to hear people respond to Bible teaching, expressing their need, and their family’s need, to believe what we are teaching.
A question we should have asked?
A&B: We’ve been asked on several occasions, when are you going to retire? Our desire is to stay in full-time ministry for a number of years yet, as the Lord gives strength and health to continue.